Flaked wax candles have the power to illuminate the souls at the altars for the Day of the Dead. And in the Mexican municipality of Tochimilco, dozens of artisans keep the tradition alive by making thousands of these objects that light, year after year, the path of those who visit the houses on these dates.
The artisan María del Rocío Pérez has been producing flake wax candles for 33 years in her workshop in Xochimilco, in the central state of Puebla.
The designs that adorn these very special candles reach your head, and her expert hands delicately work on all the details for hours to capture your imagination.
“People, even if they make their altars very simple, try to put their candles. And when it is a new offering, for the first anniversary, they look for these decorated candles ”, the woman explained this Tuesday.
A VERY ELEGANT JOB
These candles have an infinite number of shapes, all of them working with delicacy and patience. For example, there are them with the image of an angel or a saint, with floral details and even personalized with the name of the deceased.
Colorful and bright, some accompanied with ribbons or glitter, these candles are highly valued and adorn the altars of the most devout for the Day of the Dead festivities, which are celebrated in all their splendor from October 31 to November 2.
Pérez revealed that this technique is complex because the wax must be worked with heat and the heated area must be manipulated quickly since an error can cause total damage to the piece.
The woman shared that a single candle can take up to five hours to be made because it is heated by areas and has to be allowed to cool so as not to mistreat it.
Her children and herself work in her family workshop with the hope of not losing this artisan tradition that was instilled in her by her husband, who dedicated 40 years to this work, but had to abandon it after going blind from diabetes.
Argelia Flores Rangel, another artisan, has also produced flake wax candles for 20 years when she met her husband and asked her mother-in-law to teach her how to work with the material.
The woman said that for the season of the dead she makes approximately 2,500 pieces together with several people from her workshop. To achieve this enormous volume of production, and everything worked by hand, the work begins about three months before.
For the elaboration, both small and large flaking tongs and candle-type candles are needed.
In addition, silver glitter of gold, pink, blue and purple colors are used, mainly, as well as colored ribbons and brilliants, saint and angel decals.
The first step is to place a stove with charcoal, to light it and then leave only the embers lit.
In this way, over low heat, the wax is carefully passed in order to soften the points to be worked on.
Once the ideal temperature is reached, with the pliers the figures are started to be carved, ranging from crosses to clovers and leaves.
Taking advantage of the temperature that is reached, the glitter is placed so that it can stick and adhere to the piece, it is returned to the fire and with the melting wax, a ribbon is placed around it.
Other flake wax candles – which cost mostly between $ 1 and $ 8 – use two pointed and grooved woods, which serve as a mold to create flowers of all sizes.
These objects are made with wax melted into a liquid and, after being cooled with water, are carefully separated from the mold.
From these artisan workshops, the flaked wax candles reach many corners of Mexico as a symbol of the affection that is given to those who are no longer there and who, once a year, visit their close friends in life illuminated by these delicate and worked works.